Aaron Barrett (center) with his band, Reel Big Fish
Aaron Barrett (center) with his band, Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish's Aaron Barrett on Bradley Nowell: 'Our Song Beer Was Our Attempt at Writing a Sublime Song'

Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell, who died 15 years ago this month, left behind a legacy that is intrinsically tied to Long Beach and the rest of Orange County. This week's cover story pays tribute to the man who put Garden Grove on the map, who sang about the perils of date rape and invented the surf punk rock/reggae/ska hybrid that Southern California is now so famous for.

Aaron Barrett, Reel Big Fish front man, talks about what it was like to start out as a ska band in the 1990s Orange County with Sublime as a predecessor.

On learning from Sublime: We weren't good friends or anything but we were big fans of them when we were first starting the band. We looked up to Sublime. Our song "Beer" was our attempt at writing a Sublime song. It helped play music in Reel Big Fish to try to play their songs.

On how he met Bradley Nowell: First time we met them Bradley said, "You guys are great! We gotta play with you! We alway play with all these really terrible bands. That was very flattering, for a young band starting up.

On Nowell's musical legacy: Just seeing him play all these songs...his voice was so amazing. He'd just play song after song and jam for an hour and a half. They wrote that song about KRS-One--so we always wanted to write a song about a rapper. It would've been really awesome to hear where their music went. He's still influencing bands now, like Dirty Heads and Pepper--they still sound like Sublime, 15 years later after that album came out. It's still alive.

When Nowell died: It was very sad. He was a great guitar player, great singer. We all looked up to him. We were very affected by it. I can't remember where we were when we found out...I want to say we were playing a show in Arizona..

Sublime shenanigans: He was always really mellow and never did anything outrageous when I was around. But I heard (all kinds of stories like) when they doing Weenie Roast, they got 100 fake backstage laminates so they could get all their friends in backstage.


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